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Weekly Newsletter on the Ongoing Infodemic: August 9, 2020

6 mins read

By Silas Jonathan

Are fact-checkers at the brim of COVID-19 vaccine-related misinformation?

When Stella Immanuel, a doctor, made public claims that an anti-malaria drug can treat and cure Covid-19, the world that was already yearning for such information raced, even if uncritically, to believe her claims. While the announcement came to some as a soothing surprise, others viewed it as a dangerous claim that completely lacked basis, that could be the foundation for an insidious misinformation. For most fact-checkers, however, the claim merely compounded entries into an irritating reserve of skepticism. 

What’s more, for fact-checkers, the dilemma further deepened the gullibility of people, especially amidst the pandemic when people are desperate for solutions.  Afterall, members of the public are predisposed to believe most things doctors say, even when such things  conflict with the views of a higher authority such as the World Health Organization. 

Towards a possible vaccine

Though Dr. Stella might have raised hopes for many, most health practitioners understand that vaccines normally take years, if not decades, to develop. However, the evolution of the coronavirus vaccine suggested the possibility of a miracle.  Afterall, the first human trial data, back in May, revealed that the first eight patients participating in the antibodies study gave hope that  the virus neutralized. 

Also, trials of the vaccine developed by Oxford University have cheeringly shown it can trigger an immune response, just as the example from China, where scientists offered the Chinese military a vaccine considered safe, but the icing on the cake may well be the narrative shift from Russia where the claim of a breakthrough in vaccine development well beyond human trials was recently announced.

Are the Russians on the verge of a eureka?

The recent announcement by a Russian university of the successful completion of clinical trials of the world’s first vaccine against the coronavirus on humans adds a new twist to the vaccine development race, yet what is even more notable is the declaration that Russia had delivered its Avifavir medication against COVID-19 to 15 countries already.

The hope now is that Avifavir, which had received a registration certificate from the Russian Ministry of Health in late May as the world’s novel cure for the treatment of COVID-19, will hopefully bring the ferocious COVID related-infodemics to a stop and to the delight of fact-checkers.  However, hardly had the world settled into a relief that the curious revelation from the Russians that the same vaccine would again undergo “large-scale phase three trials this month!” and be ready for distribution on a mass scale in October.  

If the vaccine for the coronavirus is developed, will people take it? 

Vaccine hesitancy has always been a major challenge. In some parts of Africa, people are very agnostic to the acceptance of vaccines and for African-Americans the bitter lessons of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment (a project that deliberately used black men in Alabama as specimens) remain vivid and haunting. According to this poll, many Americans will not want the vaccine. Results show only half to three-quarters intend to get the vaccine if one becomes available. Another poll conducted by Dubawa on 55 random respondents in Nigeria, revealed that 54.5% which is 30 out of the entire 55 respondents are prepared to take the Coronavirus vaccine when available, while 45.5%, [25 out of the 55 respondents] would not take part in such vaccination.  Majority of the respondents who said NO reason that,  “ITS A CONSPIRACY TO DOMINATE THE MASSES.”

Forms response chart. Question title: Will you take COVID-19 vaccine?. Number of responses: 55 responses.
Forms response chart. Question title: IF NO, WHY?. Number of responses: 29 responses.

Though these findings are not universal and general, they reveal a new spectrum  of concerns for public health officials to worry about, in view of the scale of rejection of a vaccine. Consequently, just as efforts are geared towards a vaccine, educating people on why it’s crucial should also be prioritized. As for fact-checkers, however, it may just be the dawn of a new flood of misinformation, and it is only wise if they start building an ark to contain all the wild. 

Fact checks of the week

An online news medium “Ecocitynews” on August 2, 2020 published a story in which a Boko Haram insurgent, Abdulwahab Usman, was reported to have confessed to killing…

While responding to a tweet by the Board Chairman of the Nigerian Postal Services (NIPOST), Maimuna Abubakar who alleged that the Federal Internal Revenue Service (FIRS) had stolen NIPOST’s mandate, a Twitter User has…

The Katsina State governor, Aminu Masari, recently claimed that enemies of the All Progressives Party (APC), the ruling party in Nigeria, are sponsoring Boko Haram terror attacks in Northern Nigeria so that they could be…

Coronavirus Q & A

When are international flights resuming?

Recall that Nigeria had put a hold on movements into and outside of the country due to the prevalence of the new coronavirus, consequently, a ban was placed on domestic and international flights. But with the ease of lockdown, the ban on domestic flights was lifted but for  international flights, resumption is still in view. 

Channels Television has it that, “In a briefing on Thursday by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, the PTF National Coordinator, Sani Aliyu, said approvals have been given for aviation authorities to commence the process for the resumption of international flights.”

What is the Update on Vaccines?

Although the New York Times  Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker has it that vaccines will be ready by next year, Dr Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is hopeful of a vaccine by the end of 2020.

  • Is Hydroxychloroquine effective against COVID-19?

Although this has earlier been fact-checked by Dubawa as seen here and here (both rated FALSE!). Recently when a Houston Doctor came out to testify the drug’s potency, we checked again and the verdict remains False. At the moment, there is no cure for the new coronavirus yet, also, experts have debunked the news that portrayed Hydroxychloroquine effective against COVID-19.

What can you do? 

Be alert, share our tips and don’t share false news! 

Coronavirus infection count 

Note: Total cases may be more than officially stated owing to the inability to include unconfirmed cases. Stay safe!

Tip of the week 

Vaccine: Promote facts not made-up stories

#FakeNews Alert 

VACANCY: ECOWAS is recruiting – SOURCE: WhatsApp Message

As evident in this check, Dubawa had recently researched a similar claim about an alleged job opening in the World Health Organization. It turned out false. Beware of viral messages about job vacancies to avoid being scammed. 

Aisha Buhari Flown To Dubai For Medical Treatment – SOURCE: OnlineBlog (TheDrumOnline)

Be careful what you believe on news sites. Receive every information with an open mind. Do not be in a haste to share, check and double-check before passing on to others.

Schools Reopening: COVID-19 Test Certificate Compulsory As Excitement, Anxiety Trails Resumption – SOURCE: OnlineBlog (TheCityPulse)

Questions to ask yourself: Who is your source? Has this information been published on credible platforms?

Sex toy shop assault: Court dismisses suit against Elisha Abbo – SOURCE: OnlineBlog – (NewMail)

Do not hesitate to verify from credible sources before sharing. 

Other Fact-checks 

Strengthening Investigative Journalism for the fight against corruption in Nigeria.

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